Gigabyte offers the consumer a wealth of choice when it comes to motherboards. It can deliver low-end, low-price but relatively high-specification boards for high volume system builders, all the way up to extreme overclocking, very high-end gaming boards — with the price to match as well.
This is a motherboard from its Gaming range, specifically the Gaming 7. The Gigabyte GA-Z97X is an ATX board that can accommodate fourth- and fifth generation Intel Core processors, you’ll find four DIMM slots for up to 32GB of DDR3 3200 (overclocked) memory on-board graphics with support for up to 4K UHD resolutions and the previously seen Killer E2200 pro gaming network port. The graphics capable slots include one PCIe 3.0 16x, one PCle 3.0 8x and one PCIe 2.0 4x; along with three PCIe 2.0 lx slots and a single legacy PCI slot.
Much like the ASRock board, we found the gap between PCIe slots one and two more than enough to fit a couple of big R9 280s or GTX78Os. However, there’s a ridiculously small gap between PCIe slots two and three and, as you would expect, by populating all three slots you’re dropping the PCIe slots to 8x and 4x speeds. But it’s the cooling that remains a problem in this case.
That aside, Gigabyte has adopted a popular red-and-black theme for its Gaming 7 boards. And due to its gaming bent, you’ll find such wonderful features as Gigabyte Audio with a better than standard audio output performance through the 7.1 channel system. There are also high-end capacitors, gold-plated audio hardware, a SATA Express connector and M.2 onboard connector. Plus you’ll also have access to Gigabyte’s system management App Centre, for overclocking and cloud-based features. It’s all very fascinating, to say the least.
Working with the board wasn’t quite as cramped as with the ASRock example we had. Although there wasn’t a lot of room for the third graphics card, we did manage to get a tiny gap in place, and the system ran reasonably cool. Saying that, though, we wouldn’t fancy attempting an air overclock with all three cards in place. In short, we chickened out, partly due to the cooling issue and partly due to the fact that we have to return the board.
It’s certainly a decent enough design, and if you’re only planning on a dual SLI/CrossFire setup, then you’ll find the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-Gaming 7 more than capable for the job. As with the MSI board, there are really far too many features to harp on about, and to some extent droning on about crystal clear audio can get a little tedious.
Overall, we liked the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-Gaming 7, but considering it’s at the far end of the budget classification, costing around $180, there is the afterthought that for 40-something dollars less you could bag the MSI board and eliminate the space. In the end, though, we think the final decision will be based purely on whether the user prefers Gigabyte products over a competitor.